Return to the Rivers: Recipes from Vikas Khanna




Return to the Rivers by Vikas Khanna

Return to the Rivers by Vikas Khanna


Himalayan Delights from Vikas Khanna

Like a breath of fresh air from the Himalayan river valleys here are some mouth-watering recipes from Vikas Khanna’s new book ‘Return to the Rivers’ (with Andrew Blackmore-Dobbyn). Vikas Khanna traveled to India’s Himalayan valleys as well as countries of Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal to gather a taste of  dishes rarely eaten in the West. Here are a few tantalizing bites – and recipes.

Particularly intriguing is Amdo Paley from Amdo, Tibet where the Dalai Lama was born. It is in fact, one of His Holiness’s favorites and served during the time of Losar festival. You may not get the yak butter to go with it in New York but as Vikas Khanna describes this delicious Amdo Paley, “crisp on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside”.

Yes, recipes are our way of traveling in the imagination to places which we may never see and here’s a tasting from Himalayan outposts.  Enjoy!

(Photo and text courtesy – Return to the Rivers by Vikas Khanna, Lake Isle Press)


Channa daal and peanuts chaat with green chiles

Channa daal and peanuts chaat with green chiles

Channa Dal and Peanut Chaat


The equivalent of popcorn in the Himalayas, this snack is much loved by people throughout the region and can be enjoyed almost any time. The combination of crunchy peanuts with pan-roasted chickpeas is addictive and  delicious. On the menu at my restaurant Junoon, we add cooked basmati rice and serve it as an accompaniment to mint-marinated chicken tikka – Vikas Khanna


Serves 4 as a snack


1/2 cup channa dal
(split chickpeas)

Pinch of ground turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups water

1 peeled, cooked russet potato, cubed

1/4 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, with or without skin

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

1 fresh green chile (such as serrano), chopped

1/2 teaspoon Chaat Masala
(page 39)


In a medium-sized pot, combine the chickpeas, turmeric, salt, and water; bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas are cooked but still firm, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain and let cool.


Heat a heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook the drained chickpeas, stirring continuously, until dry and crisp.


Transfer to a bowl and toss with the potato, peanuts, onion, chile, and chaat masala until well coated. Serve warm or at room temperature.



Wazawan Rishta from Kashmir in 'Return to the Rivers' by Vikas Khanna

Wazawan Rishta (Lamb meatballs in paprika saffron curry)


Lamb Meatballs in  Paprika-Saffron Curry [Wazwan Rishta]


Whenever I think of Kashmir I think of the spices and the aroma of Kashmiri cooking. Kashmir is the place in the Himalayas where a deep, almost maroon-colored variety of saffron is cultivated. Due to the area’s abundant rainfall, Kashmiri saffron is cultivated without the need for irrigation.

These meatballs, my version of the legendary Kashmiri dish, are part of the traditional wazwan feast, but can also be enjoyed on their own. The pinch of saffron adds an element of pure Kashmiri exoticism to this recipe. Traditionally, a little extra fat is added to the lamb before it’s ground. Try using a fattier cut such as ground lamb shoulder – VK


Serves 4 to 6

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

3 whole green cardamom pods

1-inch cinnamon stick, coarsely broken

2 whole cloves

1 pound ground lamb

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil

1 red onion, minced

2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced

5 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

3 teaspoons Kashmiri
or Hungarian paprika
(see page 43)

2 cups water

1 teaspoon saffron threads, steeped in 1/4 cup warm water


In a spice grinder, combine the fennel, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves and process to a fine powder. In a bowl, combine the ground lamb, salt, and spice mixture and mix well with a wooden spoon or your hands. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

Transfer to a food processor and process until mixture is very smooth.Divide the mixture into 16 to 20 balls, about 2 inches in diameter, and keep them covered with a damp kitchen towel.

Heat the ghee in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Fry the onion, stirring continuously, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. (Add 2 tablespoons of water if needed to keep the onion from sticking.) Add the ginger, garlic, turmeric, and paprika and cook until the mixture becomes fragrant and darker in color, about 2 minutes. Add the water and the saffron-infused water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and gently add the meatballs, one at a time, to the sauce. Cover and let simmer, carefully stirring occasionally, until the meat is cooked through and the sauce is thick, about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot.



Kashmiri Naan

Kashmiri Naan


Kashmiri Naan

Makes 16 to 20 breads

1 cup warm water

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

3 tablespoons milk

1 egg, lightly whisked

2 teaspoons salt

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted


Pour the water into a small bowl, add the yeast and sugar, and stir to dissolve. Let stand for about 10 minutes, until frothy. Stir in the milk, egg, and salt, whisking to combine all of the ingredients.

Place the flour in a large bowl. Gradually add the yeast-milk mixture and knead with your hands to form a soft dough. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 6 to 8 minutes. Oil a large bowl (large enough to hold the double volume of the dough) with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Place the dough in the bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let it rest until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.

Divide the dough into 16 to 20 pieces, roll into balls, and keep covered with the towel. On a lightly floured surface evenly roll each ball into a 5- to 6-inch disk, about 1/4 inch thick.

Evenly brush the disks with a little of the remaining butter and with your thumb tip, gently make a few thin parallel lines, leaving up to 1 inch of space around the edge of the disk.

Heat a griddle to medium-high heat and lightly oil it. Working in batches, place dough disks, buttered side down, on the griddle and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until puffy and lightly browned. Brush the uncooked sides with butter and turn over. Brush the cooked sides with more butter and cook until browned on the bottom, another 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from the griddle and serve hot. Repeat with the remaining dough disks.




Amdo Palay bread from Tibet

Amdo Palay from Tibet



Amdo Paley



3 cups whole-wheat flour, plus more for rolling

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup warm water

1 medium egg, lightly whisked

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl. Mix in the water and the egg. Knead with your hands

until smooth and very elastic. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest, 15 to 20 minutes, in a warm place.

Divide the dough into four equal parts and on a lightly floured surface, evenly roll each ball to a 6- to 7-inch disk,

about 1 inch thick.

Heat a small nonstick skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Place a disk in it, cover, and cook for about 2 minutes.

Flip the disk onto the other side and cook for another 2 minutes, uncovered, until the bread is cooked through and lightly crisp

on both sides.



Shu Ping Potato Noodles with Chile Paste

Shu Ping Potato Noodles with Chile Paste

Potato Noodles with Chile Paste [Shu-Ping]


I received a lesson in ingenious cooking tools when I watched these noodles being made. The man preparing them had taken the lid from an aluminum can and poked holes in it, fashioning himself an improvised noodle maker. He made a large block of potato starch dough and then dragged the lid across its surface, the noodles extruding from the holes as he went. Such lids are incredibly dangerous to work with, so even if you’re tempted to make one in your kitchen, using a sharp knife to cut the noodles is a far safer way to go.

This dish is prepared similarly to laping (page 139), and the noodles share a translucent look, but noodles made of potato starch are much softer and more pliant than those made with mung bean starch – VK


Serves 4 to 6

2 1/4 cups water, divided

1/2 cup potato starch

Vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon finely chopped scallions

2 tablespoons Tibetan Chile-Garlic Paste (page 374), plus more for serving


In a pot, bring 2 cups of the water to a boil over high heat and then lower the heat to low.

Place the starch in a small bowl and slowly whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup water until the starch has dissolved. Slowly whisk the dissolved starch into the boiling water. Simmer until clear, 5 to 7 minutes.

Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil and pour the mixture onto it. The mixture should spread on its own, but be prepared to use a spatula to help it along. It should be no more than 1/3 inch thick. Let stand at room temperature until set, 3 to 4 hours. Refrigerate overnight for additional firming.

Using a sharp knife, cut into long thin noodles. Toss with the salt and soy sauce. Top with the scallions and chili-garlic paste and serve with more paste on the side.


Related Article:

Return to the Rivers with Vikas Khanna




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